Dominican Republic: Chambers of Horror

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In the 4½ months since the last of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo's family departed, thousands of Dominicans previously silenced by terror have come forward to describe the crimes of the dead dictator's secret police, his army and personal goon squads. Last week Dominican Attorney General Eduardo Antonio Garcia Vasquez, who investigated the stories, reported a preliminary toll: known murders plus those missing and presumed dead come to 5,700 in the past five years. The total for the Trujillo regime's full 31 years may run to the tens of thousands.

Justice has been slow in coming to the Dominican Republic. Of the several thousand members of Trujillo's dread S.I.M. (Military Intelligence Service), only a handful are under arrest; not one has been tried. The rest have either been permitted to slip into exile or are openly walking the streets; some are still on active duty.

The reason is not hard to find. Though President Rafael Donnelly's seven-man Council of State has been installed to guide the country toward democracy, it operates under a shaky truce with the still powerful military that remains from Trujillo's time. In plain language the council is afraid to anger the trigger-happy officers by searching out the killers in their ranks. Says an official of the council: "Lots of military men are implicated. You know where we would end up if we pressed too hard."

Nine & Forty. The civilian council may find itself forced to act before long as more and more of the Trujillos' grisly secrets are put before the public. Attorney General Garcia Vasquez reports that two of the busiest murder factories were located in the capital's environs—"La Carenta" (The Forty), so-called because it was on 40th Street in Santo Domingo, and "Kilometer Nine," beside a highway nine kilometers east of the capital. Both were run by the S.I.M., and both were equipped with relatively unsophisticated but highly effective torture instruments. One device was an electric chair used both for shocking and for slow electrocution.

Survivors know it was slow because the P.A. system blared the victims' screams throughout the cell blocks. A variant was the Pulpo (Octopus), a many-armed electrical device attached by means of small screws inserted into the skull. Trujillo's men also employed a rubber "collar" that could be tightened enough to sever a man's head, an 18-in. electrified rod ("the Cane") for shocking the genitals, nail extractors, leather-thonged whips, small rubber hammers, scissors for castration.

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